tracycembor

Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

Better, Faster, More

I’ll be the first to admit that I love reading how-to books. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Since I have gotten serious about this writing gig, I’ve read 30+ books on how to write better, faster, and more. If you’re considering reading one, drop me a line. I can probably let you know if it is worthwhile or not.

How-to-write books aren’t good or bad on their own. It depends what you are trying to get out of one of them. Autobiographies by successful authors will tell you how they got there, but might not be relevant today. Books on craft might hone your skills, but not give you the advise on getting an agent or marketing. How to make millions on Amazon

I enjoyed “On Writing,” Stephen King’s autobiographical take on being an author, but I would not suggest it as a guideline for how to be a successful writer in the 21st century. Too many things have changed since he made the big time. Terry Brooks and Orson Scott Card have pseudo-autobiographical books on writing too, and while they’re entertaining, I feel they’re also not so useful for today’s aspiring authors.

Jessica Page Morrell’s book “Thanks But This Isn’t for Us” would be my recommendation for best book on craft and polishing up your manuscript. Saggy middle? Two-dimensional characters? Cliques running rampant? She has some pointers that can help you find a solution as well as aid you in finding other problems detracting from your WIP.

This isn’t a book about false promises or cheery u-rah-rahs. This book will never claim that anyone can write a best seller or become a billionaire just by typing away, or even that writing is the greatest joy, because after all we cannot forget about dancing, chocolate, and sex. Rather, it’s written by a Demon of Harsh Reality and meant as a hefty dose of reality along with encouragement to keep trying, to keep learning. Because writing is a craft and it can be learned. And like any craft, we need to recognize our weaknesses before we can succeed, and often the period of mastery is proceeded by some truly awful attempts.

The other book I would recommend for getting your book in front of readers other than your friends and family is “2,000 to 10,000: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love” by Rachel Aaron. It started off as a blog post “How I Went from Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day.” She points out three revolutionary ideas (okay, not revolutionary, but it wasn’t obvious enough for me to come up with on my own) on how to significantly improve your word count without hiring a ghost writer.

  1. Know what you’re writing before you write it
  2. Track your productivity and evaluate what you’re doing
  3. Be excited about what you’re writing

writingmetric

But the truth was there was no excuse. I had to find a way to boost my word count, and with months of 2k a day dragging me down, I had to do it fast. So I got scientific. I gathered data and tried experiments, and ultimately ended up boosting my word count to heights far beyond what I’d thought was possible, and I did it while making my writing better than ever before.

But mostly, I would tell you to put the book down and get your own words on the page. That will be the greatest way to succeed. One. Word. At. A. Time. ;)

9 comments on “Better, Faster, More

  1. Gus Sanchez
    May 29, 2014

    I’ve also read Rachel Aaron’s book. Her advice seems so simple, it almost begs to be ignored, but when I applied her ideas, they really opened up my creativity and allowed me to write with more abandon. I really cant recommend her book any more highly.

    • tracycembor
      May 30, 2014

      Even though writing is a creative endeavor, I realized I needed a more organized approach. Spending a bit more time on planning before I write each day has helped my productivity during that time. Rachel Aaron’s book is fairly short, and her blog post is even shorter, so I think people can take away something from her ideas without too much of a time investment.

  2. BEAUTYCALYPSE
    May 30, 2014

    well, I stopped reading such books because a) book pile huge as is :D and b) writers must be readers, but not 24/7, and that what such books were making me, actually.

    I haven’t read the Rachel Aaron book but I agree with you, it’s very intuitive, sensible thinking, and I think I’ve been doing the same thing recently; I got me a writing software (Scrivener; and I could rave on and on about it!) and I applied the same rules to my creative writing as I do to my professional (copy)writing: a) you know what you’re doing b) create a measurable goal c) get a plan/schedule. and then: write! ;)

    Because as a copywriter, I am paid for generating cool ideas, merging worlds and knowledge and emotion and marketing strategy and sales goals with words, and I can do it, like, in the middle of the night, and from scratch, and brilliantly. (No bragging, just explaining the point) So I basically asked myself: what is restraining me from doing the same darn thing that I definitely CAN DO when writing a story? :)

    • tracycembor
      May 30, 2014

      Gosh, yes! I don’t know if I need to spend more time reading or writing. The books on the Kindle pile up, and my word count is asking me when I’m going to show up.

      I keep hearing good things about Scrivener. Do you think it has made your writing more organized?

      You make being a copywriter sound cool. Is it as awesome as the picture you’re painting? Sometimes I wish I was paid to do something in an industry more glamorous than international logistics.

      • BEAUTYCALYPSE
        May 30, 2014

        I knew I was talking to somebody who knew exactly what I mean :D

        @ Scrivener: It really, really helps.
        It has so many great features, from word goal count, a highly flexible folder structure and cool drag&drop research folders to tracking different story lines, handling various projects and having various templates for different types of writing (short story, novel, poem, script, speech…). You can read your writing per storyline – I think it’s amazing for consistency checks. And much more.
        Their customer service are amazing, and would even help you out via Twitter.
        I don’t know how I managed to do without. The best thing IMHO: its features don’t distract you from writing.

        @ copywriting. it really depends who you’re writing for and in which industry. I wouldn’t say it’s glamourous per se but then again it’s me – I work freelance, and I shun the typical “advertising dude” type as much as i can. copywriting in my case isn’t strictly limited to, well, writing copy – I develop digital strategies, and web or app concepts, as well as brand and content strategies. I love that it’s so versatile. but then I have shaped my job myself. not unlike the infamous consultant detective, just with much, much less buzz ;)

  3. ericjbaker
    May 30, 2014

    I’ve read my fair share of these books and probably got something from some of them, but I tend to think in statistics: What percentage of successful authors (defined as those who have been published and are able to earn a living that way) couldn’t have done it without the advice of a writing book? I suspect the number is pretty low. Meaning, yes writing a craft that must be honed, but some people have intrisic storytelling ability that others don’t. Just like some people are natural athletes or musicians or sales reps or chefs. Part of it is natural ability.

    • tracycembor
      May 30, 2014

      Ooo, that’s such a good point. What percentage of successful authors would say that a book contributed to their success? Yeah, probably not that many based on all the author stories I’ve heard.

      I think that craft and time-management skills can be learned from these how-to books, but the other aspect of storytelling just takes practice. Some people are naturally good storytellers, sure, but I think that practicing (i.e. writing whole stories) and getting good feedback can help the rest of us grow as writers.

      • ericjbaker
        May 30, 2014

        Practice! Nothing makes one better than doing. I think I have some innate ability as a writer (lack of typing skill notwithstanding), but I’m one of those people who has to pound away at something for ages to get at the gem hidden by all the rocks.

  4. Minerva
    June 24, 2014

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been conducting a little homework on this. And he actually bought me dinner simply because I found it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this issue here on your web site.

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This entry was posted on May 29, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .

Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

Writers of the Future Honorable Mention

About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.
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